Sources close to Gov. Jon Corzine have said for months now that he won’t pick a white male for lieutenant governor.
Not enough balance.
A week ago three names seemed fairly solid in a firmament that nevertheless shifts daily: state Sen. Loretta Weinberg (D-Teaneck), state Sen. Barbara Buono (D-Metuchen) and Secretary of State Nina Mitchell Wells.
If the first two were white, they were women, at least. But the factthat they weren’t males wasn’t the only obvious jump-off-the-page quality they shared.
Both women had reputations as elected officials who wouldn’t easily get pushed around.
Weinberg earned a rep – and endeared herself in the process to Corzine – as an enemy of the Bergen County Democratic Organization, whileBuonoaggressively sought the budget chairmanship despite efforts by leadership to install somebody more pliant.
“At the end of the day, Loretta and Barbara are at the top of the list, I think,” said Senate President Richard Codey (D-Roseland), whose alliessaid all alongtheir boss’sonly interests outside of what he’s doing noware eitherU.S. Senate or governor.
In any event, sticking to their central premise about finding a counterpoint to white male Corzine, no one from Corzine’s camp ever asked Codey if he wanted the LG job.
For his part, Codey thinks having a woman to offset Corzine is sufficient. Looking elsewhere at this point with two good candidates like Buono and Weinberg would be futile, in the former governor’s estimation.
“They keep waiting to find a genie, but Barbara Eden’s too old to come out of the bottle,” Codeyadded of a contest which GOP candidate Chris Christie is winning, according to the polls, but which, in Codey’s words, “if anyone thinks is over in July, that personis looking for moose in urban New Jersey. It’s far from over.”
Just as the LG back-drama – Codey’s take notwithstanding – does not appear to be at an end.
With those two names – Weinberg and Buono – already taking up a lot of oxygen as LG prospects, state Sen. Ronald Rice (D-Newark)last month had complained publicly about the absence of African American candidates for the LG job.
And that didn’t mean he wanted his old nemesis, Newark Mayor Cory Booker, who’d already taken himself out of the running.
On the contrary, not only did Rice not care to see Booker in the mix, he wanted to be sure Corzine did not discard as an LG candidate anylong-toiling African American public servant simply becausehe or shemightimpede Booker’s four-year runway to his own 2013 gubernatorial candidacy.People started talking about the problem of amplifying an African Americaninto a statewide presencein advance of Booker’sown Cape May to High Pointlive-shot as Corzine’s successor.
Sources close to the senator say Rice – a late holdout for a black replacement for Corzine when Corzine relinquished his U.S. Senate seat to run for governor – approved then-U.S. Rep. Bob Menendez (D-Hoboken) only after hereceived assurance from leadership that the state’s first lieutenant governor would be an African American.
When early candidates – Assembly Majority Leader Bonnie Watson Coleman (D-Ewing) and Trenton Mayor Doug Palmer – faded weeks ago, Rice was irritated that no oneappeared to be filling the gap in what fast appeared to be a mano a mano between Buono and Weinberg, Middlesex and Bergen.
Riceliked Weinberg and Buono. But they weren’t black.
And there was that 2005 agreement, after all.
Wells’s name began circulating.
Rice himself had thrown it into conversations with reporters hoping it would stick and it finally did, asTrenton insidersbegan mentioning Wells as someone the governor was considering. But Corzine himself -and this according to sources -was apparently uncomfortable with the idea of a running mate who wasn’t African American. When former Gov. Jim Florio told him Buono would be a good choice, Corzine told Florio he still wanted to consider names.
Wells’s namewasn’t bouncing off rank and file Democrats with any great resonance. Branded an aristocrat, insiders doubted that she could be sold in Newark.Or Camden.
Camden. That would come up later.
Corzine told Trenton insiders he wouldn’t write off the possibility of recruiting Randal Pinkett of Highstown, the chairman and CEO of BCT Partners, a management, technology and policy consulting services firm, and a TV star who hadimpressed Donald Trump as a contestant on Trump’srealty TV show, “The Apprentice.”
Pinkett was also a Rhodes Scholar, which Corzine’s handlers might have figured tweaked a discomfiting nerve in Booker, who all along had been their first feel-out choice.
With Pinkett’s name dangling out there, The Record columnist Charles Stile this weekend reported that party poohbahs Menendez, Essex County Executive Joe DiVincenzo and state Sen. Ray Lesniak (D-Elizabeth) again attempted to corral Booker on a ticket with Corzine.
When that collapsed, state Sen. Dana Redd’s (D-Camden) floated up again. A freshman senator and veteran Camden councilwoman whose parents were murdered when she was a child, Reddwas an early favorite for the job, and even generated more very early buzz than Booker.
Then she abruptly announced her intention to run for mayor’s office in Camden and that just as abruptly killed the Redd LG buzz.
Until this week.
Corzine sources wouldn’t confirm or deny that she’s on the list, nor did Redd return a phone call placed to her office about whether or not she’d received a questionnaire.
Senate Majority Leader Steve Sweeney (D-Gloucester) didn’t think Redd would happen. Not after she already affirmed her mayoral candidacy.
“Dana’s name was mentioned (for LG) early,”Sweeney said. “She’s a wonderful person – who would make a great mayor for the City of Camden.”
State Democratic Chairman Joe Cryan wouldn’t comment on the subject.
If Buono and Weinberg were still in the contest this afternoon, just as certain at this stage -as at the first stage -was the absence of a white male contender.
No DiVincenzos. No Sweeneys. No Codeys.
But Redd’s name was out there again as a potential Corzine running mate with the governor’s team working the detail overtime in advance of President Barack Obama’s pro-Corzine rally appearance at Rutgers University next week.